Candida Höfer

Epic Gaze


Candida Höfer, considered one of the most important conceptual photographers of the latter half of the 20th century[1], is known for her signature eye-level orthogonal views of architectural interiors of public spaces that are devoid of human presence. These printed images, reaching up to 2.59 metres wide and 2 metres high, depict mostly Western built environments, cultural in nature, of different typologies and time periods. Much of her more recent work are representations of edifices designed by Pritzker laureate architects[2].

The exhibition Candida Höfer: Epic Gaze is a curatorial selection chosen from the body of work developed by Höfer over the last 20 years. It features a variety of pieces organised in six major themes: ‘Passages’, ‘Theatres’, ‘Museums’, ‘Libraries’, ‘Worldview’, ‘Unseen Works’ and a video projection entitled ‘Silent Spaces’. These themes are enclosed in separate sections and placed in a bespoke exhibition layout as a way to promote a paced and sequential contemplation in the viewer.

The title of the exhibition stems from Höfer’s global vision of capturing a particular built environment that embodies humanity’s aspirations to preserve, represent and communicate the legacy of historical assets which emanate profound beliefs and aesthetics. By re-envisioning these structures through the medium of photography, Höfer rekindles the question of how these crucial masterpieces will continue to shape and weigh in the collective memory for the generations to come.


The sheer size of each printed image featured in Epic Gaze pushes the limits that current output technology and digital fine art production techniques can achieve, such as inkjet prints on high-quality paper mounted on rigid supports. The medium of photography is fundamentally a picture-making art[3], thus size and output techniques are integral to achieving the desired object of contemplation. Over the decades, artists working in this medium have consciously achieved a balance of these factors in order to transcend and elevate photography from mere mass production while also distinguishing their work from the overwhelming free accessibility of images found on the internet.   

Höfer’s made-for-the-wall pictures[4] are meant to be statements in and of themselves, as each documented image of space carries not just the history of a particular building, but more importantly, when viewed as a comprehensive corpus of work that is still in expansion, probes a transversal reading related to the evolution of architectural design, its capability to produce spatial content and how it continues to formulate the representation of a spatial model as a way to contain the cultural substance of a certain era.

The monumentality of these construed images of space it that they are typological portraits that convey a spatial vocabulary unique to the predetermined functions of these structures. This assertiveness prompts an immediate visual recognition of their designed intent and end-use: form, function and craftsmanship are intrinsically correlated, leaving no room for subjectivity and thus resisting any attempt at interpretation. These interior environments were designed to perform a single-minded activity; therefore, human behaviour in them is also predetermined.


Conceiving the design of a solo exhibition of this magnitude within the premises of a top-level institution such as the Macao Museum of Art and with the consent of an internationally renowned artist already inscribed in the annals of art history was indeed a privilege and an honour. As curators, we hope to have fulfilled the expectations of both parties who have generously granted us complete freedom in this endeavour from its very inception.

We are both architects whose daily practice combines elements of spatial organisation and composition as well as an acute sensibility to colour, light, palpable materials and an appreciation of aesthetic form. We began this project by examining all available materials regarding the images that were at our disposal, from a collection of catalogues provided by the artist to others researched from the web, which we then categorised into different groups. Many of these groupings, like ‘Theatres’, ‘Museums’ and ‘Libraries’, were obvious as they were intentional series of a particular work. However, on closer inspection, we realised that certain subjects, such as staircases, hallways, and other transitional spaces, recurred in different architectural projects, and for these, we intuitively devised a cohesive group entitled ‘Passages’.

Each group had to be distilled into a few representative pieces through which the criteria for the final chosen works should be articulated in such a way as to ensure balance, in terms of colour, proportion, and visual content with the overall narrative of each themed room in which it was allocated. In a museum, every wall is a character of this visual narrative, even if it is left plain (which then functions as an interval between artworks or a divider between subjects). One of the inspirations we obtained from Höfer’s work was its hypnotising power of order and symmetry. This inspiration was applied throughout the exhibition plan in conjunction with the existing structures of the museum (its columns, beams, and slabs). The exhibition culminates in the centre hall, where the main theme ‘Worldview’ is housed. In contrast, the walls of the adjacent smaller rooms are painted dark grey in order to create a more intimate and focused atmosphere for both the viewer and the artwork.

Through this exhibition, we hope to have succeeded in bringing Höfer’s signature artworks to a new audience as well as contributed to the cultural development of the Greater Bay Area and the Southeast Asian region at large by attracting regional and international visitors who are interested in contemporary conceptual photography. In Epic Gaze, these new audiences will acknowledge the importance of Höfer’s work and its otherwise rare presence in this region.


João Ó & Rita Machado



[1]             Gueland, Pauline. (n.d.) Candida Höfer. AWARE Archives of Women Artists, Research & Exhibitions. (Transl.: Simon Pleasance). Retrieved March 12th 2022. <>

[2]             The following are just a few places showcased in the current exhibition. They are listed chronologically, with the building’s original name, the corresponding finished construction date and the featured star architects:

-    Trinity College Library, Dublin, 1592;

-    Igreja de São Francisco de Assis Salvador Bahia, Brazil, 17th-18th century;

-    Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia, 1764;

-    Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf, Germany, 1875;

-    Palacio de Bellas Artes Ciudad de México, Mexico, 1930;

-    Villa Savoye designed by Le Corbusier, Poissy, France, 1931;

-    Casa da Música designed by Rem Koolhaas, Porto, Portugal, 2005;

-    Neues Museum designed by David Chipperfield, Berlin, Germany, 2009;

-    Cidade da Cultura de Galicia designed by Peter Eisenman, Spain, 2012;

-    Elbphilharmonie Hamburg designed by Herzog & de Meuron, Germany, 2016.

[3]        Thompson, Jerry, in Why Photography Matters, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2013, p. 84.

[4]        Ibid., p. 85.

1st and 2nd floor, Macao Museum of Art

Opening Date:
2023/12/05 18:30
2023/12/06 - 2024/05/19